LUXE LIST

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Luxury - AN­DREW CON­WAY HELEN AN­DER­SON AZBKNIGHT SU­SAN KUROSAWA

was beck­on­ing us to leave so soon. We’d spent less than 20 min­utes at Cruz del Con­dor, a pop­u­lar tourist stop on the south­ern rim of Peru’s rugged Colca Canyon, watch­ing a breath­tak­ing dis­play of more than a dozen An­dean con­dors swirling and swoop­ing over­head. Yes, we were packed on to the van­tage point like bat­tery hens, but surely we could spend a few more min­utes savour­ing the mo­ment?

‘‘I have some­thing else to show you,’’ he said, with a know­ing grin, be­fore driv­ing us farther along the canyon to a com­pletely se­cluded look­out with a pop-up cham­pagne break­fast bar and pri­vate chef on standby. ‘‘This is our ver­sion of lux­ury in the wilder­ness,’’ said Mar­i­ano Tak­i­nami, our tour host and gen­eral man­ager of Las Ca­sitas del Colca, a small and ex­clu­sive lodge near the gate­way to the canyon.

As we tucked into flutes of fizz, scram­bled eggs and rich Peru­vian cof­fee, three mag­nif­i­cent con­dors swooped up from the canyon be­low and put on a show just for us. Pure magic. More: las­c­a­sitas­del­colca.com.

The hori­zon hov­er­ing over this sur­real al­ter­na­tive uni­verse has just be­gun to blush when we rise from chic tents at San Camp, tuck into oven-warm pop­py­seed muffins and tea and ven­ture into the Kala­hari Desert. Soon we’re trot­ting be­hind a clan of meerkats as they for­age fu­ri­ously for grubs. This is the only wild pop­u­la­tion in the world ha­bit­u­ated to the pres­ence of hu­mans — in fact, they are so un­fazed that they climb atop our heads for a su­pe­rior van­tage point. Later, we hare across the crunchy salt pan on quad bikes, laugh­ing, ex­hil­a­rated by the un­nerv­ing em­brace of noth­ing­ness. But what’s that smudge on the hori­zon? In the mid­dle of nowhere and noth­ing, staff from San Camp have de­posited an ice­box and a heavy wooden chest that un­folds to re­veal the best-stocked pop-up bar in Africa. I raise a mar­tini glass to the meerkats. More: clas­sic­sa­fari­com­pany.com.au.

If there is one thing that de­stroys lux­ury with a swift blow, it is a queue. What is worth shuf­fling a grey line for, apart from, per­haps, the Egyp­tian pyra­mids and the Taj Ma­hal, and yes, of course, the Sis­tine Chapel. For one look at that ceil­ing, I would gladly suf­fer the in­ter­minable queue, and then, once in­side, the manda­tory ana­conda crush as a thou­sand strangers squeeze in. How­ever, on one oc­ca­sion I breezed into the Sis­tine Chapel on a VIP Vat­i­can Tour and, bar nine oth­ers, had it all to my­self. I could have run up and down or slid about in my socks; and I would have done ex­actly that were I not fixed to the floor, gaz­ing up at God in the sec­onds be­fore he cre­ated Adam. No­body touched me, no­body breathed near me, no­body whis­pered. That golden soli­tude tran­scended lux­ury; they were 30 of the most priv­i­leged min­utes of mylife. More: dark­rome.com.

Tea Trails is a linked ac­com­mo­da­tion cir­cuit de­vised by Dilmah in the high­lands of Sri Lanka; there are four clas­sic colo­nial bun­ga­lows, won­der­ful ser­vice from res­i­dent staff and, of course, fine cup­pas in abun­dance. More: wildlife­sa­fari.com.au.

What could be more lux­u­ri­ous than an ex­clu­sive plunge pool; but­ler, chef and driver on 24-hour call; and a sense of in­ter­rupted seclu­sion? Yours at the hon­ey­moon haven of Sun­gai Gold, a pri­vate villa in the Ba­li­nese vil­lage of Cepaka; next door is the three­bed­room Sun­gai, ideal for house par­ties. More: bali-vil­la­sun­gai.com.

Aboard the glam liner Se­abourn Odyssey, buy a Ther­mal Suite day pass for Spa at Se­abourn to lie on warm tiled couches and cush­ioned wa­terbeds and to try the dip­ping pool, sauna, steam room, mon­soon show­ers and out­door hot tubs. More: se­abourn.com.

On the new Royal Princess (T&I, June 22-23), book a pool­side ca­bana in the adults-only Sanc­tu­ary on deck 17 and snooze or or­der sunny-coloured drinks be­tween pam­per­ing spa treat­ments. More: princess.com.

While not an ul­tra-luxe abode, you’d go a long way to feel more gen­uinely looked-af­ter than at Reg­gie Singh’s rather quirky her­itage ho­tel, Chap­slee Palace, in the In­dian hill sta­tion of Shimla. More: chap­slee.com.

A small-scale mo­bile sa­fari with Botswana-based Un­charted Africa prom­ises flex­i­bil­ity, great style and com­fort, and wildlife al­most on call. More: clas­sic­sa­fari­com­pany.com.au.

The Penin­sula Hong Kong has a Fly & Dine ex­pe­ri­ence that in­cludes a swoop­ing chop­per tour of the ter­ri­tory com­bined with lunch or din­ner at this grand-dame ho­tel, which turns 85 this year. More: penin­sula.com.

Just 34 fish­ing fa­nat­ics and fresh-air devotees at a time get to hole up at King Pa­cific Lodge in Bri­tish Columbia, Canada; this pop-up ho­tel (from June to Septem­ber) is an­chored at Barnard Har­bour on Princess Royal Is­land and sur­rounded by the largest tract of in­tact (bear-dwelling) tem­per­ate rain­for­est on earth. More: king­paci­fi­clodge.com.

A stay at Sanc­tu­ary Sussi & Chuma ad­join­ing Zam­bia’s Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park gives you the rac­ing Zambezi River vir­tu­ally on the doorstep of your bush villa, the roar­ing Vic­to­ria Falls down the road and ac­cess to a re­serve with pro­tected white rhino. More: aber­crom­biekent.com.au.

A Bellini of prosecco and fresh white peaches at Venice’s Cipri­ani is a buck­etlist es­sen­tial. More: ori­ent-ex­press.com.

rom left, e-use nd in e crowds view­ing e Chapel; orse rsions and rkats

A Tea Trails bun­ga­low in Sri Lanka

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